Category: Diane’s Favorites

Bluff
April 1st, 2019 by diane92345

“Poker has its own moral universe. Lying is called bluffing. Deception is the norm.”—from the new humorous revenge thriller Bluff

Maud is convinced that her parent’s financial advisor, Burt, stole all their money. However, she cannot get anyone to believe her.

Broke, Maud plays online poker. Skilled at the game, she wins. When the online casinos are shuttered by the government, Maud turns to live games. Throughout it all, she continues to nurse her grudge with Burt.

One morning, she walks into the Four Seasons and shoots Burt. Luckily for Burt, he is able to shield himself with his lunch companion, and longtime friend, Sun. While Sun is in the ICU, his secrets begin to unravel leading to a domino effect on his entire social circle.

Structured like poker itself, Bluff manages to surprise at every turn. Plus it has many moves like tournament poker. Honestly, if you love thrillers where the motive is cunningly plotted revenge, you will love this tale as much as I do. 5 stars!

Thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

Never Tell
March 25th, 2019 by diane92345

Another awesome entry in the Sergeant Detective D.D. Warren series. Both D.D. and Flora Dane have a past connection to a new murder case in Never Tell.

Evie is happily married to Conrad and four months pregnant with their first child. Coming home after work, she finds Conrad shot dead in his study. Something on his laptop disturbs her so much that she calmly picks up the murder weapon and shoots the computer twelve times. The police find her holding the gun and arrest her for murder.

Evie was D.D.’s first murder case sixteen years earlier. Evie had shot her father. Her only comment, “It was an accident. An unfortunate accident.” Evie was not charged.

Flora Dane, now working as D.D.’s confidential informant, recognizes the victim, Conrad, from her days with her abductor, Jacob. What secrets are hiding behind Evie’s and Conrad’s seemingly normal facade?

Never Tell is another gripping thriller by Lisa Gardner. Told from the viewpoint of Evie, D.D., and Flora, Flora’s sections were the ones I was racing toward. Flora describes more of what happened to her during her abduction. In addition, Flora shows almost a human side in this book, which is nice to see.

While this book is a highly recommended thriller, I would suggest strongly to read Find Her, where Flora Dane’s story is initially told, before reading this one. It will increase your understanding of Flora’s story (plus it’s a great book on its own).  With that sole caveat, Never Tell is highly recommended to all thriller lovers. You won’t be disappointed! 5 stars!

Thanks to Dutton Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: , ,

A Beautiful Corpse
March 19th, 2019 by diane92345

The victim, a 24-year-old law student and part-time bartender, is A Beautiful Corpse in the second entry in the Harper McClain series.

Harper is a newspaper crime reporter working the night shift. She is covering a murder in the tourist area of Savannah when she thinks the victim looks familiar. Harper had just seen the victim, Naomi, a couple of hours earlier working in The Library Bar.

The police have three suspects:

  • Naomi’s boyfriend, who has a criminal record and no alibi
  • Her stalker, the District Attorney’s son, with a solid alibi
  • Naomi’s boss, who had a run in with another young female employee two years ago and has no alibi.

Harper is investigating for her newspaper but she also disagrees with the person the police suspect. As she investigates, she is also battling a stalker who may or may not want to help her with the case.

Even though this is the second book in this series, it can be read as a stand-alone. When you begin A Beautiful Corpse make sure you have enough time to finish it in one sitting.  I literally couldn’t put it down. I was reading it on my Kindle and I bought the audiobook so I could listen to it on my drive to and from work. That’s how addicting this book was. I loved the innovative point-of-view of an investigative reporter doing basically police procedures because the police don’t or won’t. Harper is a great character and I was extremely invested in her success both with the case, her job and her love life. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. 5 stars!

Thanks to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

Silent Patient
March 4th, 2019 by diane92345

Silent Patient is a spellbinding whipsaw of a thrill ride where you won’t see the end coming!

Alicia kills her husband who she appeared to be head-over-heels in love with. She is arrested, tried, found guilty and taken to a mental health facility. Throughout the ordeal, Alicia refuses to discuss her motive or to talk at all for six years.

Her therapist, Theo, tries to break through Alicia’s silence. His story is told within the Silent Patient. Alicia’s diary entries are also provided. I enjoyed Alicia’s viewpoint the best. However, the shocking ending is the best part of this tale. This psychological thriller is highly recommended for domestic thriller fans. 5 stars!

Thanks to Celadon Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

Tear It Down
January 24th, 2019 by diane92345

Tear It Down is a rip-roaring adventure into the underbelly of Memphis with Peter Ash’s haunted military veteran taking down drug dealers with the help of his friends and girlfriend, June.

Peter gets antsy when he stays at home too much so June sends him to her friend, Wanda, in Tennessee whose house has been vandalized. While there, he gets involved with drug gangs, bandits and hidden treasure.

I can’t believe I have never heard of this series before and this is book four. Even though I received a copy from Edelweis+, I couldn’t stop reading it to drive to work so I bought the audiobook! The audiobook narrator uses his skills with accents to great effect, which makes it easy to tell the characters apart (even in heavy traffic). It made my hour long commute fly by.

Tear It Down is fantastic with both a great plot and great characters. This series is highly recommended for Jack Reacher fans as Peter is even more of a loose cannon. 5 stars!

Thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons and Edelweiss+ for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: , ,

The Boy
January 6th, 2019 by diane92345

With a masterful plot, unique characters and a pitch-perfect rural setting, there is nothing in The Boy that I didn’t love.

A woman awakens to a ghastly sound coming from 7-year-old son’s room. Racing to his room, she finds him stabbed multiple time and the killer next turns the knife on her. Fearing for her safety, she runs bloody and wounded to her neighbors for help.

Annie and Nick, married detectives in rural Partout Parish Louisiana, are assigned the case. If only they could stop the new grandstanding Sheriff, Kelvin Dutrow, from trying to “modernize” the detectives’ methods. When a second child disappears, panic runs high as the detectives race to see if the two cases are connected.

The plotting is done with such precision that the reader sees none of the machinery and can sit back and enjoy the twist-filled ride. The rural Louisiana setting seems like a character all by itself and the characters in The Boy are one of its greatest charms. There is hot-headed Cajun Nick’s frequent switches into French patois. There is level-headed Annie who tries to reel her husband in.

You rarely find a book with both good characters and fine plotting. I loved The Boy. 5 stars!

Thanks to Dutton Books for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

Accidental Beauty Queen
December 3rd, 2018 by diane92345

Humor and digs fly when two sisters attempt to win a beauty pageant with an Accidental Beauty Queen.

Charlotte is resigned to never being the pretty sister. Her sister, Ginny, has followed in their mother’s footsteps in the pageant world. Charlotte followed in their father’s footsteps by being a reader and a primary school librarian. There is no need for bedazzling, hair extensions or even makeup in Charlotte’s world.

When Ginny invites Charlotte to share her hotel room during the Miss American Treasure contest in Orlando Florida, Charlotte is overjoyed for the chance to visit the Harry Potter theme park. However, the second evening, Ginny has an allergic reaction that swells her face threefold. Ginny convinces Charlotte to pretend to be her in the prelims because the two sisters are (wait for it…) identical twins.

The author does a great job making light of the easy comparison to Miss Congeniality. The makeover scenes are hilarious. When an attractive man sees the real Charlotte under all the glam, things get all Pride and Prejudicey. It is a great mashup—both literary and chick lit at the same time. The Accidental Beauty Queen is highly recommended to anyone looking for a fun happy story. 5 stars!

Thanks to Gallery Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Humor, New Books Tagged with: ,

Talking Pictures: How to Watch Movies
November 8th, 2018 by diane92345

Have you ever wondered about the engine under the hood of your favorite movie or television show? If so, Talking Pictures: How to Watch Movies is a comprehensive resource you need to read.

Beginning with the screenplay, this book has a chapter about each part of the movie making process. Other chapters focus on acting, production design, cinematography, editing, sound/music and directing. There is also a short chapter about documentaries in the appendix.

Each of the chapters offer an in-depth look at the work of the providers of the skill. The author defines some industry terms. There are fascinating stories from the past. Who knew the first time the title of production designer was used was for Gone with the Wind? Names of actors and movies are given as both good and bad examples of the skill being studied. Finally, at the end of each chapter is a list of recommended movies to watch to see the craft at its highest level.

Talking Pictures: How to Watch Movies is enchanting. It’s perfect for movie fans who want to see the multiple skills necessary to make a great movie. I loved it! 5 stars.

Thanks to Basic Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: ,

7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
September 17th, 2018 by diane92345

Innovative plotting and world building fill the 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

What would make the replay of a day over and over immeasurably worse? How about also waking up as different people each time you fell asleep?

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a clever blend of fantasy and Agatha Christie. Not only does our first person narrator have to figure out how and why he keeps jumping from one person to another repeating the same day. He also must solve a murder that appears to be a suicide, while also racing against several other jumpers to win his freedom from the endless repetition. There are also mysterious players outside the action who may be friend or foe.

The mystery of Evelyn Hardcastle is relatively easy for armchair detectives to solve. However, the mystery of how and why the actions replay is more of a puzzler. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is recommended for amateur detective fans jaded by reading too many similar books. It is stunningly original though the middle dragged for me a bit. Still 4 1/2 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Sourcebooks Landmark, and NetGalley for an advance copy.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: ,

An Unwanted Guest
August 8th, 2018 by diane92345

A blizzard traps 9 guests, the owner and his son in this homage to And Then There Were None mixed with a bit of the Shining. The guests in An Unwanted Guest include:

  • Gwen Delaney in corporate public relations despite having a journalism degree and
  • Her college buddy, Riley Shuter, who suffers from PTSD from her work as an embedded journalist in Afghanistan
  • David Paley, New York criminal defense lawyer visiting alone
  • Ian Beeton, businessman staying with
  • Lauren Day, his girlfriend
  • Beverly Sullivan, working on her marriage to
  • Henry, who doesn’t love Beverly anymore
  • Dana Hart, drop-dead gorgeous fiancée to
  • Matthew Hutchinson, heir to a large New England fortune
  • Bradley, clerk and son of
  • James Harwood, the hotel’s owner and chef
  • Candice White, an author writing her next book

The Unwanted Guest is an excellent traditional mystery but with many twists and turns. Excellent misdirection and red herrings makes the conclusion rate up there with some of Dame Agatha’s finest. Perfect for armchair detectives up for a challenge. 5 stars! I can’t recommend this book highly enough! I loved it!

Thanks to the publisher, Pamela Dorman Books, and Edelweiss+ for an advanced copy.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with:

Maze Master
July 17th, 2018 by diane92345

Da Vinci Code + World War Z + Jurassic Park divided by the Bible = Maze Master.

The LucentB virus is 100% deadly and is moving outward from France. Anna enlists the help of Christian professor, Martin, to find “Marham-i-Isa, the legendary healing ointment created by Jesus to heal the sick and raise the dead”—perhaps the only hope for humanity. While searching the Middle East for the ointment, Anna is also looking for her former mentor, the famed geneticist Hakari. In a parallel plot, Hakari is being driven mad by visions of shapes and his belief that he is the second coming of Christ. Wars break out as the virus spreads and nations look desperately for a cure. On battlefields, huge “angels of light” are spotted. Have the end times prophesied by the Bible arrived? Or is it something inherited in our Denisovan pre-historic genes that started the virus and the rest is pure human folly?

I loved the Da Vinci Code back in the day but I adore this book even more! It has the genre mashup that I like so much. It’s apocalyptic and scientific. With its factual underpinnings, it could actually happen. The setting and characterization are well done. It moves at a lightning pace. Overall, it is highly recommended for thriller readers. Open-minded fans of horror, science fiction and Christian fiction might also enjoy it. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, St Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for granting my wish for an advanced copy.

Posted in Christian, Diane's Favorites, Fantasy, Mystery & Thrillers, Science Fiction Tagged with: ,

In the Valley of the Devil
July 12th, 2018 by diane92345

“The world never ran out of monsters.” Earl Marcus is back fighting them In the Valley of the Devil.

In the rural Georgia mountain countryside, a new preacher has arrived. Jeb Walsh is running for the Senate, pushing his book and preaching his version of hate and intolerence at his town square rally. In the meantime, racist graffiti is turning up all over town. A rumor about Old Nathaniel, a hooded racist killer, has resurfaced after several African-Americans are reported missing.

Earl has recovered from the incidents in Heaven’s Crooked Finger (see my review). He is now a private detective. When his African-American Atlanta police officer girlfriend, Mary, is kidnapped, Earl pulls out all the stops to find her.

In the Valley of the Devil really lives up to the thriller label. It is an exhilarating pulse-pounding ride to the finish. Highly recommended but I cannot overemphasize the need to read Heaven’s Crooked Finger first. Events in the first book continue to impact the characters in this book plus there are major spoilers in here. Luckily, both the first book and this one are excellent and earn 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: , ,

I See Life Through Rosé Colored Glasses
July 8th, 2018 by diane92345

Snake mating balls! Unusual holiday benefits of steroids! The cheap high of the Container Store’s false promises!

We’ve all been there. Okay, maybe not…but we all agree that life is funny especially when someone else is fending off its slings and arrows. Just like life, I See Life through Rosé Colored Glasses has no easily discernible plot. It just kinda rolls over everything in its way. Most of the stories here are only a few pages long making them a perfect choice for grocery queues and doctor’s waiting rooms (and much less frustrating than the high levels of Candy Crush).

First, I love Lisa Scottoline’s thrillers. The only reason I requested this book was because I was curious. I always assumed that mystery/thriller writers are rather glum and constantly thinking of original ways to murder people (hopefully only characters but who really knows). However, this book was hilarious! It reminded of the Erma Bombeck “families are so wacky” style of books from my youth combined with Dave Barry’s “Florida citizens are crazy” books. Except containing large Italian Catholic families that are both wacky and crazy. Despite being nothing like any of those adjectives, it is easy to relate to—or unfortunately relive—many of the scenes from the book.

Btw, I just refuse to use FaceTime or Skype, even at work—problem solved! Again, this book is gloriously absurd and, I know this is judgey Lisa, fully earns 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, St Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Humor, Non-fiction Tagged with: ,

Island of the Mad
June 16th, 2018 by diane92345

Mary and Sherlock are back to work in Island of the Mad.

Mary’s old friend Ronnie’s “mad” Aunt Vivian has disappeared. Returning early from a home visit to Bedlam, both Vivian and her caregiver never arrive. After a search fails to find her, Mary and Sherlock are enlisted into the search. Mary enters Bedlam undercover as a patient. Lady Vivian has reason to believe Bedlam is a safe harbor and her lifestyle before entering comes into question. The search continues among the rich internationals in Venice.

This is the first book in the series I’ve read and it works as a stand alone. However, some of the teases to what happened to Watson and Mrs. Hudson make me look forward to reading some of the earlier entries later. I selected this series because of glowing references to it in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series by Vicki Delany.

This book is highly recommended to Sherlock Holmes fans. It is also great for historical fiction fans interested in the build-up to World War II in Europe. It’s 1925 and the fascists are afoot! I thoroughly enjoyed the well-researched Sherlock Holmes references along with all the characters. Mary, being a feminist, was especially enjoyable. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Bantam Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Historical Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: ,

Hanging Kokedama Potless Plants
June 8th, 2018 by diane92345

Hanging Kokedama: Potless Plants contains instructions for 25 beautiful Kokedamas. The book includes orchids, cacti, ferns, bulbs, herbs and even trees. Kokedamas are created by removing the plant’s pot and replacing it with moss tied with string or wire into a ball shape.

The instructions are clear.  The book gently teaches the necessary skills by beginning with the easier plants. There are excellent watering tips too for each plant type.

Great choice for the DIYer who enjoys a minimalist (think Ikea) perspective. 5 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Jacqui Small Pub, and Edelweiss+ for a copy.

#FrugalFriday short review.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Non-fiction Tagged with: , , ,

Word is Murder
June 5th, 2018 by diane92345

“The word is murder. That’s what matters.” And so begins another original take on a thriller from Mr. Horowitz.

First person meta-mystery where the author plays himself as Dr. Watson to a memorable, recently  disgraced, consulting detective, Hawthorne. To avoid confusion, when referred to as Mr. Horowitz, I am speaking of the real author. I will use Anthony to denote the author character within the book.

Anthony is approached by an acquaintance, Hawthorne, to write a book about the case he is working on. Hawthorne is an outside consultant to the police whenever a particularly difficult case comes up. This case begins when Diana Cowper goes to an undertaker and plans her funeral down to the psalms and songs. Six hours later, Diana is dead, strangled in her living room. Hawthorne and his shadow, Anthony, inspect the murder scene, interview witnesses and decide on a lead suspect. However, Anthony quickly realizes that Hawthorne is an brilliant secretive unsympathetic homophobe. So Anthony decides the only way for him to continue writing the book is to investigate Hawthorne.

I love the concept of the Word is Murder but not so much its execution. Using Anthony as the narrator in a first-person mystery begs the question how can he be fooled by red herrings when his real self is writing them. It just feels like a manipulative con man is pulling the reader’s strings. However, the book’s conclusion is brilliant and well worth a read. 4 stars!

Thanks to the publisher, Harper, and Edelweiss for an advance copy.

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